A personal invitation to Vandana Shiva: Listen to Farmers!

See the French translation

Dear Dr Shiva,

Over the years you have made a name for yourself speaking on behalf of Indian farmers on the spiritual importance of seeds. It is an emotional subject (seeds of life neo-mysticism works well on social media) and you have done very well for yourself. Kudos!

One of the things that is missing though in what I have read about you, and other anti-GMO campaigners, is that I don’t hear very much from farmers. Even the farmers you surround yourself with tend to be either hobby farmers or glorified gardeners. I thought it would be useful, while you are in The Hague, to have a session where farmers could speak about their concerns (and why they need agri-technologies like better seeds). So I am organising a breakfast event this Friday next to yours and just before your event starts.

I grew up on a farm so I generally take offence to the bias I often see (in statements from you or other rather cosmopolitan zealots in the anti-tech movement) that conventional farmers are ignorant and just don’t know any better. You seem to think that agri-technology companies are forcing their products on farmers and that they have no choice. Where do you get this information? Certainly not from farmers!

What I am trying to say is that maybe you should take some time to meet and listen to some farmers! Namely, I am inviting an Indian farmer to speak at my event. His name is Ganesh Nanote – read an article about him here. He hopes you will listen to his message about agri-technology … so much so that he is travelling 40km by bicycle from his remote farming village to the nearest town with good Internet so he can participate in my breakfast Voice of Farmers conference. He knows, Vandana, that you are only 200m from my event and trusts that you are willing to make the trip to come to listen to him.

Many things you say Vandana are simply false, have been proven to be groundless myths, and still you say them. Ganesh will be presenting the reality of the Indian farmer. He has a right to be heard. For example:

That Bt Cotton has caused an increase in farmer suicides in India. This is groundless as most suicides are economic related (often when the monsoon rains fail and crops are lost). With Bt cotton, income and yields have increased (see below). As Ganesh notes, almost every farmer in India wants to plant Bt cotton.

You go on and on with your thing about seeds as something spiritual. For someone in the west searching for some sort of swami asceticism, I get that this goes over well. But farmers are free to save seeds; in most cases they don’t want them. Better seeds give better yields. As Ganesh says, the traditional cotton seeds were quite poor, with short fibres, and even the non-traditional hybrids had issues with pests. Bt cotton has been an amazing success for Indian farmers and for India itself! Farmers are not religiously attached to seeds and maybe you should listen to them!

You referred to seed technology as rape. This is very offensive to farmers like Ganesh. Maybe you should look as some basic data:

It takes less than 1g of pesticide to produce 1 kg of Bt cotton (previously it was almost 6g with traditional varieties). Since Bt cotton was introduced over a decade ago in India, farmers’ income has risen by 375%,thus allowing farm labourers to eat better and provide better education for their children.

Vandana, you call this rape? Or are you raping the organic consumer with your stories?

Maybe it is time you listened to some of those farmers you claim to represent?

I notice on the second day of the People’s Assembly that you are attacking Bill Gates. Aren’t you being just a little bit too cocky? I know that you will be speaking in a room surrounded mostly by friends (and The Risk-Monger!) who resent a very rich man trying to lift the poorest in developing countries out of poverty. But really Vandana, in attacking him, what are you actually saying about yourself? You pocket your overpriced speaking fees while Mr Gates spends more on development projects than most governments do. You don’t deserve to speak about such a person.

And I think that is telling. Are you compensating for some internal sense of inequity or injustice? Vandana, both of us have PhDs in philosophy. I am OK with mine (I am very proud of the work I had done) and respect other people with brilliant scientific minds in fields I could never reasonably comprehend. But you claim that you are a doctor in nuclear physics. Seriously??? Why do you feel so inadequate with your education in philosophy that you have to say that? Is that why you want to attack the greatest philanthropist of our age? Is that why you need to pose as some mystic swami to the inherently stupid? Is that why you need to over-charge gullible white people for meaningless speeches? By the way, is the rumour true? Are you actually charging the Monsanto Tribunal €40,000 for your representation fee?

It must be painful to admit to yourself that Asians do not look upon you in the same way!

I have many kind Indian friends who, sorry for the generalization, have a strong sense of humility. They listen, they are open, they are respectful. I suspect your education in my country (just a short drive from my family farm in Ontario) has had a strong influence on you … stronger than you are willing to admit. Perhaps you need to remember how to listen.

I am offering you a chance to come to my event and listen to farmers. Ganesh would like you to listen to him. Most conventional farmers would like you to listen.

It is easy to listen … the first step is to just stop talking!

Vandana, you can find out all of the information about my event 200m from your People’s Assembly, at the Voice of Farmers. It is a free event and I am even providing you with breakfast (with organic pastries!). That’s how much I would like you to come and listen to farmers! But don’t forget to register as space is limited! You can even donate to my event – my crowdfunding budget is only €3000 (via small donations) – your budget is €500,000 via organic industry sponsorships. See the Monsanto Tribunal begging basket:

For now, it is half a million euros … it could always go up!

Think about that when you are ready to listen!

Thank you and see you on Friday!


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